Country Listing

Nigeria Table of Contents



In 1990 the rail system consisted of 3,500 kilometers of narrow-gauge (1.067-meter) track. The system's basic elements were two main lines running inland from the coast: one, in the west from Lagos to Kano, opened in 1912, and the other, in the east from Port Harcourt to a conjunction with the western line at Kaduna, opened in 1926. Three major extensions were subsequently constructed. One was a branch line from Zaria to Kaura Namoda, an important agricultural area in the northwest, completed in 1929. The second was a branch from Kano to Nguru, a cattle-raising region in the northeast, completed in 1930. The third, a 645- kilometer branch from the eastern line to Maiduguri, was completed in 1964. A short spur to the mining area at Jos and two short branches from Lagos and Kaduna rounded out the system.

Poor maintenance, inadequate government funding, and declining traffic all contributed to a deterioration of the rail system. A plan to convert the entire system to standard gauge (1.435-meter) by laying new track parallel to the old was shelved in the early 1980s for lack of funds. Construction of a new line from Oturkpo to the steelworks at Ajaokuta was also halted in the mid-1980s. In 1988 the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), operator of the system, declared bankruptcy. In an attempt to cut an inefficient and oversized staff, the government laid off onequarter of NRC's workforce. The remainder responded by shutting down the entire system for six months. In 1989 some trains were reported running again, but the system still was reportedly tottering on the verge of total breakdown.

Data as of June 1991